Maryland has a diverse geographic layout, with three major regions designated as Dental Health Professional Shortage Areas (Dental HPSAs). These are Baltimore City, the Eastern Shore, and the Western part of the State, which includes the Appalachian regions. Approximately 50% of Baltimore City, 90% of the Eastern Shore, and 75% of the Appalachian region have less than 20 dentists per 100,000 residents, far below the national average of 61. (1) Through the Building a Diverse and Dynamic Workforce grant, the Maryland Department of Health (MDH), Office of Oral Health (OOH) will address the shortage of dental professionals in Baltimore City, the Eastern Shore, and Appalachian regions of Maryland by enhancing the presence, data collection, and resilience of the dental workforce in these regions over a four year period. These objectives address the organizational priorities of rural health, health equity, and COVID-19. Goal 1, Objective 1: The Pathways to Bright Futures (PBF) program will connect 750 youth living in Dental HPSAs with pathways to dental professions. A Pathways to Bright Futures Advisory Committee (PBFAC) will be established to advise the development and implementation of PBF. PBF will consist of the communications plan, an annual event at the National Museum of Dentistry, presentations to youth in Dental HPSAs from dental professionals, experiential learning opportunities, scholarship awards for aspiring dental professionals from Dental HPSAs, and seminars and externships at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry (UMSOD) to encourage dental students to practice in Dental HPSAs. Goal 1, Objective 2: OOH will assess the impact COVID-19 has had on the dental workforce and will equip six local health departments (LHDs) in Dental HPSAs with emergency preparedness and response plans. With the support of an OOH-led Emergency Response and Preparedness Committee (EPRAC), LHDs will enhance their resiliency by developing continuity of
operations (COOP) plans to prepare for future public health emergencies. Goal 2, Objective 1: OOH will collaborate with the Maryland State Board of Dental Examiners (MSBDE) and Maryland Medical Assistance Program (Maryland Medicaid) to develop enhanced data collection protocols for dental workforce data. Strategies will include developing the capacity to collect demographic and geographic data about dentists and dental hygienists, and establishing a process for MSBDE and Maryland Medicaid to share data on a regular basis. OOH will produce an analysis report of the new dataset and communicate the outcome to all relevant stakeholders to inform program activities. Goal 2, Objective 2 & Goal 3, Objective 1: The final objectives of Building a Diverse and Dynamic Workforce will be to evaluate and sustain the programs. All objectives, to be completed by August 2026, will receive ongoing rapid cycle quality improvement throughout the four years of the grant, culminating in a final analysis to inform sustainability and evaluation efforts. OOH will receive partner commitments and plan for additional funding to sustain or grow key elements of the grant. Enhancing the presence, data collection, and resilience of the dental workforce in underserved communities is paramount to addressing the upstream factors which affect dental health. These objectives will provide opportunities for residents in Dental HPSAs to join the dental workforce, increase provider availability, and have care given and received by members of the same community. (1) American Dental Association. (2016). The Dentist Workforce: Dentist Profile Snapshot by State: 2016. Available at: https://www.ada.org/resources/research/health-policy-institute/dentist-workforce Accessed December 2021.